Keeps Schools in Touch With Parents
by Helen Gao, The Los Angeles Daily News, October 27,
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gunbattle erupted near Stevenson Ranch Elementary School in
Santa Clarita two years ago and left two people dead,
administrators evacuated the school and scrambled to contact
parents to pick up their children.
They relied on word of mouth, handmade signs and a phone tree to
That wasn't fast enough for administrators. So Stevenson Ranch
Elementary did what 250 other schools in Southern California
have done: They contracted a private company to provide a
high-tech communication system that enables the school to send
voice messages to parents instantaneously.
"I am sure it would have helped put parents' minds at ease to
have heard directly from the principal," said Newhall School
District Superintendent Marc Winger, who said he wished he had
the system in place during the Stevenson Ranch shootout. "We
(had) parents frantically calling the school and coming to the
Newhall campuses are among 750 schools nationwide that subscribe
to the communication service provided by The Partnership for
Academic and Community Excellence, a company founded by Studio
City parent Bennett Liss. PACE, which serves 1.2 million
students, is considered a leader in the emerging field of
school-to-parent communication technology.
PACE enables schools to log on to a computer and send out a
prerecorded voice message in multiple languages to multiple
emergency contact numbers submitted by parents, without having
to install expensive equipment. Typically, schools have to pull
emergency contact cards and dial numbers by hand -- a
As a result of PACE's simplicity, the automated program --
described as a mini-Amber Alert -- is rapidly gaining
popularity, especially in elementary schools, where students are
too young to bring cell phones to school.
"I am amazed at the technology. It provides us an opportunity to
get a single uniform message out to all parents in a given
school or district," said Winger, noting he can call 6,700
parents in three minutes.
Newhall started using PACE in August for the first time to
notify parents of back-to-school night. The system was
successful in reaching 95 percent to 98 percent of the
Lanai Road Elementary and Coldwater Canyon Elementary in North
Hollywood are among some of the schools in the San Fernando
Valley that have also signed up for PACE.
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